Tag Archives: Discovery tools

CLA: Slides to the Social Catalogue Session

For those of you who are interested, here are the slides from the Social Cataloguing presentation that Dr. Louise Spiteri and I gave at CLA. 

Social Cataloguing Sites: Features and Implications for Cataloguing Practice and the Public Library Catalogue, presented by Dr. Louise Spiteri

Social Catalogues: The New Face of the Public Library Catalogue, presented by Laurel Tarulli

We welcome questions, comments, feedback and ideas!

*If you have trouble opening or accessing these slides, please contact me.

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Filed under Access Issues, Discovery tool platforms, In the Cataloguing Department, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Choosing a Discovery Tool

So, you’ve decided that you want a social catalogue, a discovery tool (and often referred to as a “solution” or “platform”).  How are you going to decide which one?  What if you don’t even know about them?

Like any software, discovery tools have their problems. You can find a number of articles discussing the technical difficulties or support issues that have been encountered for each solution. However, all discovery tools offer a package that many libraries can no longer afford to ignore. Especially if we want to compete with information giants such as Google, Amazon and LibraryThing.  Without switching to a new ILS, we can implement a “did you mean?” function, spelling recommendations, search results with no dead ends, social tagging, list making, review writing and user ratings. We can finally include tag clouds and federated searching in a single search box. Given the relative newness of this software, their features are continually being enhanced and expanded. And, unlike an ILS, you are not “stuck” with a solution if you want to change it.

If you’ve been playing with the idea of implementing a discovery tool in your library, here are some tips that I recommend:

1. Look at what our competitors are doing.  Check out other libraries, play with Amazon, LibraryThing, Facebook and other social catalogues, networks and software. What are they doing?  Has it been successful and why?

2. Research. At this time, don’t pigeon-hole yourself into looking at your options.  This research should be a bit broader.  What are people saying about social catalogues? Are their surveys available regarding the use of social catalogues and their features? Stories of successes and failures? What about lessons learned or blog posts of first-hand experiences? Even if you start researching with only a basic understanding of discovery tool, this process will introduce you to the software available, as well as studies, research, opinions and surveys available for review. Why reinvent the wheel?

3. Now that you’ve got a good foundation of knowledge on social catalogues, it’s time to consider the following:

Proprietary vs. Open Source Software
System Requirements (ie. What would you like the software to do? what does it have to do?)
Users
Budget, staff resources and time-line

By this point, you’ve probably narrowed down your choices to a handful of options. Call those vendors or software developers to ask them about their product. Many times, they’ll even send you sample RFPs to assist you if you’re required to draft one.  If not, this will give you a good idea of what other libraries require of the software. This is a great time to ask about special customized features or to address concerns you have about something you’ve read. And, of coure, contact other libraries. Don’y be afraid to speak with colleagues at other libraries about their experiences or opinions.

For those of you who really want to learn more about discovery tool platforms, check out the following resources:

Dicovering the Library: Finding the Hidden Barriers to Success Using the Catalog

New Discovery Tools: Ranking Customer Results First

Discovery Tools blog by John Houser

OPAC: The Next Generation

MOBIUS ILS Task Force Report

Integrated Library Systems and Discovery Applications

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Discovery Platforms Require Excellent MARC Records

Last week, I attended a presentation for the discovery tool Encore. Encore is one of many up and coming discovery tools being overlaid onto library catalogues. Other examples of discovery tools include AquaBrowser and Primo.

This is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit through a full presentation pitch on discovery tools. In the past, there have been brief visits with vendors at conferences or short presentations to whet my appetite, but never the full opportunity to sit back and analyze the potential of these products and exactly how they work.

As most (or all) of you know, discovery platforms overlay a library’s existing catalogue. They read our MARC records and extrapolate that information for use in the discovery tool overlay. Therefore, a discovery tool is only as good as your MARC records. Without full, descriptive records and appropriate subject headings, your tag clouds and refined search parameters are sloppy and inaccurate. Without uniformity, your tag cloud will assist in retrieving some items but not others with different.

This is quite interesting with the amount of records currently being supplied by vendors. Will these records provide the level of quality and accuracy necessary to make discovery tools successful? If records lack descriptive elements or the “local” touch, will they be as effective in this setting? In Encore, the tag cloud depends upon the subject headings and I find it hard to believe that records that have not been edited or reviewed by in-house cataloguers are able to provide the same quality needed to properly sustain these new platforms.

From my understanding, all of the discovery tool platforms rely on the information in MARC and convert it to a more user-friendly format. Given the growing popularity of platforms, it appears as if there is a growing need for quality cataloguing. As a selling feature, these platforms sell themselves as user friendly as well as “automated reference librarians”, allowing patrons to be guided through their discovery by the catalogue, rather than by an individual. With this type of reliance on a tool, it is imperative that the information created for these tools is of the highest quality, as emphasized by the vendors themselves.

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Filed under future of cataloguing, The Library Catalogue